FORGE COTTAGE – Home of Seth Smith
Photo:Homes and Buildings: Seth Smith, Seth Smith's barns Seth Smith's old barns now Barn Flats
“When I began my courting seriously,” said Seth Smith once, “I looked at my position. My income was 9/6d a week and my outgoings were 10/-, so I went round my garden and my orchards, collecting everything I could sell, and took it to market”.
And Seth continued doing that for the rest of his life; sometimes twice a day with, first of all, Joe pulling the trolley, then later Merry and finally Prince The trolley contained everything, plums, apples gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and, during the right season, young ducks and chickens. He was helped a good deal in having plenty of land. His front lawn at No. 53 “The Poplars” (so called because of three poplar trees growing in the front garden) had hen coops, as did his back lawn.
He had orchards at the back; orchards where Barn Close is now; orchards where the Council houses are; orchards along The Close. He also owned the three cottages which now comprise Owlet End.
He kept his Aylesbury ducks near there. They were regularly in the river, but came up the bank straight away when Seth called them at night He had strong competition. Mrs. Betteridge at the Rectory would also be calling her ducks. Her high-pitched “Dilly,dilly,dilly,dilly” echoed along the river and stirred the river weeds. Her ducks could be half-a-mile away, but her voice reached them, and it was quite comical how, with loud quacking the ducks would immediately turn and race for home at the sound of her voice. The Aylesury ducks Seth kept for breeding, but his others were placed alive in cages and taken to Garratts with all his fruit and vegetables. On Fridays, Joe would be harnessed to the trap. Seth had his special customers in Stratford and would deliver eggs, fruit and vegetables to them.
As for the blacksmith's business, as the market gardening side flourished that was pushed to one side. To begin with, Mr. Weaving worked mainly in the smithy, shoeing horses, but when he died, Seth had to carry on as well as doing the market gardening. He stopped shoeing horses and concentrated on putting the metal tyres on the wheels that Mr. Dodd made. He got his sons, Ralph and Walter and their friends to help, and some of our senior citizens can remember working the enormous bellows. The lads were also called in to help with fruit picking. Mr. Alder and Mr. Rouse worked for Seth, helping him with the market gardening, but otherwise he relied on his sons and the lads of the village to help. Alice, his daughter was also involved in the work. She was in the barn (now flats) helping to sort out the fruit,. Any that were slightly speckled, she put on a stall in the barn for villagers to buy.
Seth had a good greenhouse too, well heated during the cold weather. Tomatoes were a speciality. He always planted the seeds on Christmas Day and kept them on top of the hob on the kitchen range. Woe betide any who dared to move them from there! When the little plants were strong enough, he transferred them to pots and put them in his warm greenhouse, later transferring them to much larger pots. He always reckoned that, by planting the seeds on Christmas Day, he would have his first tomato on Easter Day, and it always seemed to work – for him!
Seth always wore a cloth cap, but occasionally, when the weather was very hot, he would venture out in a Panama. Somehow the sight of that Panama set the rain clouds gathering and it was quite noticeable that rain followed the wearing of that hat!
Walter, Seth's youngest son died of cancer. Alice married and moved away from the village. Ralph remained after Seth's death, but he sold off all the blacksmith's equipment and just kept the market gardening side. Ralph later married and moved away. A lot of the land was sold for building purposes and the house was purchased by Mr. Barrett
Agnes, Seth's wife was a hard-working cook at Red Hill House before her marriage. She then became a hard-working wife, helping Seth with the chickens. Unfortunately she developed heart trouble. It soon became so bad that all she could manage was the housework and cooking. Eventually even the housework became too much for her heart. On the days when she felt well enough, the cooking utensils and ingredients were placed around her so she could cook without too much movement. A fighter to the end, her heart finally gave out in 1944.